What is Raksha Bandhan?
It is the festival celebrating the bond of love between a brother and a sister. It not only celebrates the bond of love between brothers and sisters but also signifies that love is not bound by the considerations of religion and community. It is also called ‘Janai Purnima’ or ‘Rakhi Purnima’ and is observed by Hindus and Jains. Raksha Bandhan means ‘Bond of Protection’.
When is it?
It falls within the month of ‘Sharavan’ (or ‘Shrawan’) on the day of full moon (‘purnima’). In 2016 this is Thursday 18th August.
According to this legend (there are several of them) the festival of Rakhi has its roots in an incident from the Mughal period. Chittor was once attacked by the King of Gujarat. Rani Karnawati sent a silken thread to the Mughal Emperor Humayun. He sent a large army in response to the message seeking protection and helped Rani Karnawati to defend Chittor.
On this day sisters tie rakhis (meaning ‘sacred thread’) made of threads on the wrists of their brothers for their long and happy life, love and prayers for well being. The brothers vow to take care and protect their sisters all their life. Brothers present gifts to their sisters and the sisters prepare delicacies (sweets, dry fruits or other seasonal delicacies) for their brothers and feed them. They then hug. Sometimes an aarti is involved where a tray with a lighted lamp or candle is ritually rotated around the brother’s face, along with the prayer and well wishes. Sometimes a ’tilak’ or ‘tikka’ is applied. This is a colourful mark on the forehead.
Children fly kites.
Cards and gifts have been exchanged and Facebook is full of love posts between siblings. Children have been flying kites in the street. It is not a huge festival but an acknowledgement of love. It brings together families including distant family members and cousins, across religions, diverse ethnic groups and ritually emphasises harmony and love. The rakhis have been worn all day by the brothers.